Introduction
Hindustani Classical Music

Section 2 - Pentatonic Ragas

As promised, this and the following two sections will introduce a few different kinds of ragas. I thought you might find it interesting to learn something about the prescribed mood or emotional content of a raga before listening to it, and have accordingly provided a short description of each raga. My descriptions are mainly based on the mood (rasa) traditionally prescribed for the raga but elaborated based on my personal understanding and experience of it.

Let's start with pentatonic ragas. It is very easy to come up with pleasant melodies if you're only using five notes out of 12 in an octave. There are many pentatonic ragas. I'll give you a few examples.

Raag Bhupali
Raag Bhupali is one of the most likable ragas there could be. It is derived from a combination of notes that is used not just in Indian music, but universally. In the Hindustani tradition, this particular set of notes is shared by two ragas, Raag Bhupali and Raag Deskar. The two ragas are quite close, naturally, but differ in that Bhupali emphasizes the lower notes and is more pensive, while Deskar is more playful and vivacious. Raag Bhupali is sung in the evening hours, after sundown.

Scale: Bhupali
Click to hear: Definition of Raag Bhupali
(Ascent: S R G P D S' /Descent: S' D P G R S)


Pundita Kishori Amonkar
Raag Bhupali


Vidushi Malini Rajurkar
Raag Bhupali



Raag Malkauns
Malkauns is a regal and solemn raga, best sung in the lower pitch ranges at an extremely contemplative, slow pace in the small hours of the morning, just after midnight.

Scale: Malkauns
Click to hear: Definition of Raag Malkauns
(Ascent: 'n S g m d n S' /Descent: S' n d m g m g S)


Ustad Shahed Parvez on the sitar
Raag Malkauns (cropped)


Vidushi Malini Rajurkar
Raag Malkauns


Raag Durga
Raag Durga - a raga of pristine purity, reminiscent of fresh snow on the mountains. It is sung from late evening to midnight.

Scale: Durga
Click to hear: Definition of Raag Durga
(Ascent: S R m P D S' /Descent: S' D P m R S)


Vidushi Malini Rajurkar
Raag Durga


Sushree Anuradha Kuber
Raag Durga


Raag Shivranjani
A hauntingly pretty raga, sung from late evening to midnight. But it is relatively new to the Hindustani tradition, being originally a Carnatic (or South Indian classical) raga, and its status remains somewhat low among the classical ragas. It is treated more as a semi-classical or light raga.

Scale: Shivranjani
Click to hear: Definition of Raag Shivaranjini
(Ascent: S R g P D S' /Descent: S' D P g R S)


Prasad Bhandarkar
Raag Shivranjani


Ravi Shankar Mishra (flute) and Anonymous (sitar)
Raag Mishra-Shivranjani (mixed raga)


Raag Hamsadhwani
Hamsadhwani - a lovely raga that fills one with positive energy and a sense of well-being. It is sung in the evening hours, after sunset.

Scale: Hamsadhwani
Click to hear: Definition of Raag Hamsadhwani
(Ascent: S R G P N S' /Descent: S' N P G R S)


Pundit Ajoy Chakraborty
Raag Hamsadhwani


Pundita Kishori Amonkar
Raag Hamsadhwani


Raag Madhmad-Sarang
Raag Madhmad-Sarang is sung during the late morning hours, just before noon.

Scale: MadhmadSarang
Click to hear: Definition of Raag Madhmad Sarang
(Ascent: 'n S R m P n S' /Descent: S' n P m R m R 'n S)


Pundita Kishori Amonkar
Raag Madhmad-Sarang


Pundit Jasraj
Raag Madhmad-Sarang